I have a thing for old trails, or in this case old roads that are being taken back by the desert.
Having spent a decent amount of time designing, building and maintaining trails in Southern Utah, I am always on the lookout for new ways to keep water from destroying that which I want to ride. That might seem strange in the desert, but the rains kill our trails unless they are built at proper grades, have rolling grade reversals and proper drainage is built. This isn’t always an easy task seeing that we love to ride on mesas and our area isn’t known for being flat. This is part of my fascination with Lange’s Dugway. It is almost perfectly built.
Lange’s Dugway is an old pioneer road. It is built into the lava field between the sandstone of Snow Canyon and Pine Valley Mountain. Running from the Turkey Farm Road into Diamond Valley, it traverses an area almost forgotten by the locals. The amazing thing about the road is the fact that it is still intact. From the TFR, it drops at a perfect grade into the Black Gulch where you are forced to traverse the one wash out the road has experienced. After the Gulch, it is benched into the side of the canyon, again at a perfect grade, climbing up to the mesa above. Once on top, it continues upward maintaining that perfect grade as it meanders toward its terminus. To maintain the grade, it is both built up and dug into the landscape. Considering that this road was built through a lava field and without modern machinery, you can only imagine the amount of work it took to build.
The drainages are built with basalt rock and have held true with that one exception of the Gulch. It is worth stopping to admire the construction and to wonder how long it took to piece together.
While this isn’t a ride that you would use the word “ripping” to describe, it is enjoyable. The nice grades make for a pleasant climb allowing you to spin and take in the views. With Pine Valley looming in the distance and the Red Cliffs of St. George sitting below, the vistas are worth the trip. In addition to the pleasant views, you will surely find solitude. I have ridden this trail many times and have never run into a single other person. I’m usually quite surprised when on the rare occasion, I have seen someone else’s tracks.
We tend to ride the Dugway on our fat bikes, not because of sand (the only sand is in the bottom of the Gulch) but because of the loose lava rock and rugged nature of the trail. With that said, it could be ridden on any mountain bike.
The Dugway is accessed from the Black Gulch Trailhead (map here) The trailhead is off of the Turkey Farm Road (aka Cottonwood Springs). From the trailhead look across the road and you will see a carsonite sign and a stepover where the trail starts. As this is an old road, it is easy to follow. You can ride all the way to Diamond Valley and use pavement to get back to town or, as we usually do, ride till you’ve had enough and flip around for a coast back to the car.
If you go, let us know what you think in the comments.